Directed by Aleksandr Medvedkin, comedy, 66 min, eng subtitles, 16+
Written by Aleksandr Medvedkin
With Pyotr Zinovyev, Yelena Yegorova, Nikolay Cherkasov
Happiness is a silent, irony-ridden black comedy set in the Russian Empire before the October Revolution and then in the Soviet Union, illustrating a poor peasant's dreams of becoming a king. The film uses absurdity and slapstick humour as a kind of surreal joke to poke fun at the real topics of politics and life in Russia beneath the surface.
The movie begins with a philosophical question "What is happiness?" and explores this theme and the many different ways it can be achieved. But beneath the facade of poor peasant comedy there is also an exposé of rule-bound communism and Stalinism in the Soviet Union during collectivization.
The original print featured an experimental first colour sequence of the Mosfilm studio, but this sequence was discarded on account of its poor technical quality and is apparently lost. Unnoticed on its release in 1935, Happiness became well known in the 1960s among film scholars.
Russian director and filmmaker Aleksandr Medvedkin is not as well-known or recognised as he deserves. This may be due to the fact that most of his films were banned and censored at the time they were made. Famous French filmmaker Chris Marker made a documentary about Medvedkin entitled The Last Bolshevik (1992), also featuring excerpts from Happiness.